Cowboys In Danger of Losing Rising Star in Free Agency: Report

Donovan Wilson

Getty Dallas Cowboys safety Donovan Wilson celebrates after a play.

The Dallas Cowboys‘ latest generation of talent has finally earned their first playoff win, but holding the team together in free agency will be difficult.

It’s the nature of the salary cap and the NFL, as bringing in top talent is pricey, but keeping those players around is truly expensive. Two of the team’s defensive talents, safety Donovan Wilson and linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, may be players outside of the Cowboys’ budget.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram writer Clarence Hill Jr. posted an update on contract negotiations for the two players on March 3.

“Cowboys are making no progress on a new deal with linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and there is not a lot of optimism for an extension for safety Donovan Wilson #Bigmovescoming,” Hill wrote.

Wilson and Vander Esch are two of the key pieces of the Cowboys’ defense, although neither brings a spotlight like defensive end Micah Parsons or corner Trevon Diggs.

Keeping either or both may not be a possibility. But losing Wilson would be a critical loss, as he is a rising star that has only gotten better during his time with Dallas and is coming off a very strong 2022 campaign.

Wilson Gets After QB in 2022

Secondary blitzes are always exciting. They’re a major gamble for an NFL defense, but the type of risk Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn loves to take. He found a secret weapon in that sense with Wilson in 2022.

According to Pro Football Reference, Wilson earned 5 sacks in 2022, the most of his career and the fifth-most of any Dallas player last season. He also brought down an interception and forced two fumbles in the process.

Wilson’s big-play capabilities are well-established, but the advanced metrics also show that he is a solid play-to-play safety. He allowed an opposing QB rating of just 69.0 and a completion rating of 51.3%.

The “Achilles heel” of Wilson’s game in 2022 was his missed tackles. His 101 combined tackles last year was the most of his career, but he also missed 9 tackles, more than his previous three seasons combined.

Can Cowboys Afford Wilson?

As a sixth-round pick in the 2019 NFL draft, Wilson has been a very cheap option for the Cowboys since joining the team. The former Texas A&M star made a grand total of $2.65 million over the past four years with Dallas.

Basically, Wilson’s been playing for cheap and will undoubtedly expect a much larger paycheck in his second NFL contract. However, the Cowboys are in a tough spot when it comes to money.

Dallas is currently $7.5 million over the cap according to Spotrac. Some of their possible options to clear space, such as restructuring QB Dak Prescott’s contract or cutting RB Ezekiel Elliott, have been well documented but that doesn’t mean the Cowboys can make anything work.’s Mike D’Abate states that market projections currently expect a deal worth $6 million a year for Wilson. While that’s not an astronomical price, it’s apparently high enough that the Cowboys are “not optimistic” about an extension.

Instead, Dallas can draft another young talent and hope he meets or improves on the standard Wilson has set. But it is certainly a gamble to let a player of Wilson’s quality go in favor of a rookie.

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